What a week it’s been. Honestly, if you’d have made up this week’s news, nobody would have believed you. So, what have we had?
* A meteor exploded over Russia, quite close to the city of Chelyabinsk. The impactor is thought to have been around 17 meters across and weighed around 10,000 tonnes . This was the biggest such event recorded, over Russia at least, for approximately a century, since the Tunguska Event of 1908. Around a thousand people are thought to have been injured, mainly from flying glass, as the shock wave of the blast blew out windows over a wide area. Around 200,000 square kilometres of glass were shattered by a blast equivalent to 30 Hiroshima bombs. This is clearly the boost in business that glaziers in Chelyabinsk have been praying for. When I viewed scenes like this, the first question I asked myself was – do drivers in Russia routinely have cameras on their dashboards? (Answer – yes.)
* On the very same day as this, no
fewer less, an asteroid known as 2012 DA14 skimmed past the Earth, its closest approach some 17,100 miles – closer than satellites in geostationary orbit. We are told that the body was the size of an Olympic swimming pool. So, had it landed in your garden, you’d have had a swimming pool, instantly, without all that tedious hanging around waiting for the man with the excavator to start and having skips parked outside your house for weeks, annoying the neighbours.
* Pope Benedict XVI resigned. The first papal resignation in half a millennium has sparked all sorts of conspiracy theories. Dan Brown is reported to be taking notes.
* Paralympic superhero Oscar Pistorius, the ‘Blade Runner’, was up before the beak accused of murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in his home. Mr Pistorius is alleged to have shot her several times, mistaking her for an intruder. This dreadful tragedy really has the lot – sporting hero, gorgeous girlfriend, violence, death … and sex. The Sun celebrated the incident with a swimsuit shot of the victim, presumably before she had been shot. Whatever one thinks of the ethics of using pictures of hot babes to sell newspapers (a strategy that’s known to work), and granted that to look comely in swimsuits for photographers was Ms. Steenkamp’s job, this tactic is a bit … well … ewwww.
* Despite the recession, there has never been a better time to launch a new scientific journal. Hardly a week goes by without another new periodical hitting the racks. Many of them employ some form of free access. ELife is already out there. PeerJ is another I’ll be keeping an eye on. But very few journals can count on a huge world-beating scoop in their very first issue.
No such problems for new (pay-per-view) DeNovo, which featured, in Vol. 1, Issue 1, a paper on the genome of the Sasquatch, a hitherto mythical ape-like creature reputed to stalk the backwoods of North America.
The researchers sequenced DNA from well over 100 specimens of hair, skin and so on (but nothing readily identifiable as a big hairy ape-man) and found that although the nuclear DNA was very peculiar, the mitochondrial DNA was of human origin. This wholly remarkable and unprecedented circumstance suggests that at some time in the past, these Sasquatches interbred with human women. So, ladies, lock up your daughters. And gents, keep that shotgun handy.
When I first learned of this I couldn’t help thinking how this result resonated with the primal fear that lilywhite women would be violated by a person of some group less exalted and possibly more melanic. Depending on your background and reading material, this person could be black, Jewish, a martian, or even a robot. It put me in mind of the line from Othello where, in the very first scene, Iago teases Brabantio that
Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe.
Meaning that the Moor Othello was having it off with Brabantio’s daughter, Desdemona. Never thought I’d be referencing Shakespeare and King Kong in the same sentence.
Anyway, I am sure that there is a perfectly rational explanation for this anomaly, and I’ll be looking forward to what DeNovo has to offer in future issues.
* The horsemeat scandal runs and runs
, notably at the 2:30 at Kempton Park. For those who don’t know, the story over the past couple of weeks is that some meat sold as ‘beef’ in processed foods such as frozen lasagne and burgers has been found to have come, instead, from dead horses. I’ve enjoyed covering this, having had two bites at the nosebag.
* To cap it all, today is World Pangolin Day.
I wonder what next week will bring? Here are some predictions.
* It is known that Rupert Murdoch was never fond of the idea of Page 3 models in The Sun, but was persuaded by the sales figures. Those who’ve read Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News will recall that the proprietor of Newfoundland newspaper The Gammy Bird loved to feature pictures of car crashes in each and every issue. Hey, you’re way ahead of me here … perhaps The Sun will announce that they’ll feature corpses of dead celebrities on page 3. If they are short of copy, I’m sure that people would queue up to nominate celebs they’d like to see dead, mutilated and pictured. They could even print pictures of dead racehorses before they’re carted off to be made into sausages.
* Although some of the rogue DNA found in processed meat will be identifiable as horse, some will be of unknown origin. Investigating the anomaly, scientists will find evidence of Sasquatch DNA, proving that Lord Lucan is in fact the Loch Ness Monster. A paper will be rushed to DeNovo.
* Although meteors will continue to whizz past our ears, there will continue to be no sign of intelligent life on Earth (I am only visiting.)